Population census: the average family size in Estonia has gone up

Posted on 6 September 2022, 8:00

According to the results of the register-based population and housing census of 2021, there are 341,995 families in Estonia, of which almost half, or 49%, are two-member families. Compared with the previous census, there are fewer families, but the number of people living in them has risen. 154,625 families (or 45%) are raising minor children and 16% of the population lives alone.

While the total number of families in Estonia is 341,995, the number of people living at the same address, i.e. households, is considerably higher – 561,655.

Liina Osila, the Population and Housing Census project manager at Statistics Estonia, explained that in the census, there are in fact two concepts of belonging household and family. “’Household’ refers to a private household made up of people sharing a dwelling (flat or private house). This means that there is one household per occupied dwelling, and it can consist of a single person, a family, or many persons and several families. So, for example, inhabitants of a care home or a prison also constitute a household. ‘Family’, however, is defined as two or more people living together as spouses, partners in a consensual union, or as parents and children,” noted Osila.

Average size of families has increased

On average, a family in Estonia consists of 2.94 members. The total number of families is down by 5% compared with the 2011 census, but the number of people living in a family has risen (it was 2.74 in 2011). 49% of families in Estonia are made up of two persons, 22% have three members, 20% have four, and the remaining 9% consist of five or more people. 

Married couple families account for 55% of all families, while 27% are consensual union couple families. The total number of lone parent families is 61,465, representing 18%. Lone mother families amount to 16% and lone father families to 2%.

A total of 154,625 families (45%) are raising minors. 36,939 children, that is 14% of all children living in families, are growing up in a lone parent family.

Families by type

Families with no resident children are the most common in Estonia

Families are subdivided into married couple families, consensual union couple families, and lone father and lone mother families. Among these, a distinction can be made between families without children, families with at least one resident child under the age of 25, and families where the youngest resident child is 25 or older. 

Based on this breakdown, married couple family with no resident children is the most common family type in Estonia. There are 94,554 such families, representing 28% of all families. Married couples with at least one resident child under the age of 25 rank second in terms of proportion. There are 83,878 families of this type, which is 25% of all families. Consensual union couples with at least one child under 25 years of age are the third most numerous, totalling 64,025 and accounting for 19% of all families.

The highest number of people live in two-member households

While the average household size is 2.35 people, the largest number of households consist of one person – namely 37% of all households. However, the highest proportion of the population, 23%, live in two-member households.

40% of households are those whose members do not actually form a family according to the census methodology (e.g. household of siblings or that of a grandparent and grandchild). 62% of households reside in city settlement regions and the largest households are found in town settlement regions. 

76% of people belonging to a household are part of a family, while 24% live in other types of households. The majority of the latter are persons living alone.

Household structures can be examined in two ways. In the broad breakdown, married or consensual union couples with or without children are the most common (couple households – 48%), followed by persons living alone or with siblings or friends (non-family households – 40%), lone parent households (10%), and finally two-or-more-family households (1%). In the more detailed view, couple households are divided into three categories according to whether there are children living at home and, if so, whether or not at least one child is under the age of 25.

A total of 561,655 households were counted, of which 154,634, or 27.5% of all households, have members under 18 years of age. Compared with the previous census, this figure is up slightly. In 2000, one in three households (34%) were raising minor children, whereas in the previous census in 2011, one in four (25%) did. The percentage of households with minors is highest in Tartu county (32%) and lowest in Hiiu county (19%). However, in terms of smaller regions, the highest proportion of households with underage children is found in Rae rural municipality where 56% of households are raising minors.

The biggest households are also located in Tartu county (2.50 members) and Harju county (2.43), and the smallest in Hiiu (2.16) and Ida-Viru (2.08) counties. The proportion of one-person households is highest in Ida-Viru county (43%). Tartu county also has the largest percentage of households with five or more members (11%).

Nine out of ten households are mono-ethnic

Census results reveal that the majority of households (88%) are mono-ethnic. 63% of households consist of Estonians, 21% of Russians, and 4% are mono-ethnic households of other nationalities. The remaining 12% are multi-ethnic households, divided into Estonian-Russian households (5%), households of Estonians and persons of other ethnic nationalities (3%), households of Russians and persons of other ethnic nationalities (3%), and households with people of different ethnic nationalities who are neither Estonian nor Russian (1%). Multi-ethnic households account for a slightly larger share in cities than in small towns and rural areas.

Retirement-age women in particular tend to live alone

16% of people in Estonia live alone – down by 3 percentage points from 19% in the census of 2011. The share of people living alone is heavily dependent on sex and age, reaching as high as 50% for women of retirement age. The proportion of persons living on their own is highest in Ida-Viru county (21%) and lowest in Tartu county (13%).

The largest percentage of people living alone is found in Sillamäe city (23%) and the smallest in Rae rural municipality (6%).

For more information on households and families collected during the census, visit rahvaloendus.ee.

The results are based on register-based census data and have been published in the statistical database. The data collected with the survey are still being processed and analysed and Statistics Estonia will publish these results in November.

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For further information:

Helen Maria Raadik
Media Relations Manager

Marketing and Dissemination Department
Statistics Estonia
Tel +372 625 9191


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